In an attempt to isolate disease-associated autoantigens in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), we cloned a new autoantigen named gp130-RAPS, which is a novel soluble form of the IL-6 signal–transducing molecule gp130. gp130-RAPS is a 50-kDa protein translated from alternatively spliced mRNA and has a truncated form of gp130 with a unique sequence, Asn-Ile-Ala-Ser-Phe (NIASF), in its COOH-terminus. We observed serum antibodies to this NIASF sequence frequently in patients with RA, but not in those with other systemic rheumatic diseases or in healthy subjects. In RA, detection of those antibodies was significantly associated with disease activity indices such as serum C–reactive protein (CRP) levels, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, blood platelet counts, and serum IL-6 concentration. In vitro experiments revealed that gp130-RAPS inhibited IL-6 activity, and this inhibition was neutralized by antibodies to the COOH-terminus of gp130-RAPS derived from patients with RA. Thus, autoantibody to gp130-RAPS may play an important role in the progression of RA by promoting IL-6 activity. Inspection of autoantibodies to gp130-RAPS may become a practical clinical test for RA. gp130-RAPS and its autoantibody provide a new clue to the complicated pathogenesis of RA.
Masao Tanaka, Masaaki Kishimura, Shoichi Ozaki, Fumio Osakada, Hidetaka Hashimoto, Mitsuo Okubo, Masao Murakami, Kazuwa Nakao